AWARDS FINALIST: solarZero – community housing

18 Aug 2023

solarZero’s aim is to make solar panels and battery technology available to all households. This zero dollars down model means no upfront payment needs to be made by homeowners, thus enabling solarZero to explore solutions for the rental community and community housing.

solarZero wanted to understand how solar and batteries together could benefit tenant whānau in the community housing space. 

Te Āhuru Mōwai ran a procurement process for the installation of 18 solar and battery systems on community houses in the Porirua/Titahi Bay area. solarZero tendered and won the contract. 

Te Āhuru Mōwai

Te Āhuru Mōwai is the country’s largest Māori-owned community housing provider, established by Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira. The project, with funding from the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund, was solarZero’s first with a community housing provider.

Te Āhuru Mōwai manages a housing portfolio of 950 homes in Grenada, Tawa, western Porirua, and Paekākāriki and is committed to playing its part in building strong communities and supporting whānau by creating, maintaining and delivering healthy, affordable homes. Te Āhuru Mōwai wanted to explore the benefits of both solar and batteries in reducing the cost of living and improving the wellbeing of tenants.

Electricity is a significant cost for tenant whānau, and the aim was to see how much solar and batteries could reduce electricity bills, and what the benefits would be for tenant whānau.

solarZero and Te Āhuru Mōwai share similar values. solarZero aims to provide cheaper, cleaner electricity and to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inclusive. This includes providing lower socio-economic households with access to solar and battery technology.

A key partner in the project was NorthStar Electrical. NorthStar carried out the solar panel installations and ensured the agreed timeline was met and that the tenant whānau had as few disruptions as possible.


The project looked at how solar and batteries could be effectively deployed in the community housing community, and what the installation and operational challenges might be.

A number of challenges unique to the social housing sector were identified, one being that only a minority of Te Āhuru Mōwai’s housing stock had roofs suitable for solar.

Solar was only considered for recently built houses, or those that had been re-roofed. These houses had also been re-wired or had new wiring; another important consideration.

Privacy issues were a key consideration around the provision of data and information as tenant whānau moved out and new tenant whānau moved in.


Feedback from tenants three months into the solar energy initiative were positive.

Comments included:

“We grew up in fear of our power being turned off. We don’t have that fear anymore;”

“I can use the dryer now … and will have no problem turning the heating on this winter.”

At six months, average savings were quantified at $220 a month per household. In addition, some tenants received electricity credits.

While not experienced during this pilot, in the instance when grid power is out, the lights, and more importantly heating, in homes with solar and batteries remain on. 

The financial benefits for tenant whānau are obvious, but there are other wins. The initiative is expected to make a positive difference in terms of health via warmer and drier homes and has significantly strengthened overall tenant and community trust and confidence in Te Āhuru Mōwai.

With such positive initial results, Te Āhuru Mōwai plans to explore opportunities to extend this Kaupapa to support more tenant whānau solar panel installations in the future.

The Social Procurement Award category is sponsored by BlueFloat Energy